by Micheal Z. Muhammad and William P. Muhammad
The nomination of Judge Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson to the highest court in the land is the tale of two narratives—Black optimism and expectations versus White-dominated reality. The first narrative is one of never-ending hope that Black people will one day achieve equality and equal footing in all aspects of America. This tale is akin to fool’s gold, but it continues to endure in hearts, minds, and souls of those who hold tight to the so-called “American dream.”
The second narrative is America as currently constituted is finished. This position is articulated succinctly by Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. America continues to unravel and plunge in a downward spiral as political partisanship becomes more bitter, contentious, and divisive as was the case in the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Jackson in Washington, D.C.
Highly qualified and equally credentialed, Judge Jackson, tapped by the Biden Administration to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, made history March 21 as the Senate Judiciary Committee considered the first Black woman to be confirmed to the high court since its 1789 formation.
The Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate and will most-likely garner votes needed to confirm her, but at what cost?
Graduating magna cum laude as an undergrad before attending Harvard Law School and graduating with honors there, Judge Jackson’s subsequent career included clerking for the United States District Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and as a clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court. A wife and mother, her judicial resume is impeccable, yet it did not stop the barbs, insults and condescending tone thrown her way by Republican senators during the hearings.
“My overall view is that it is long overdue!” said human rights attorney Nkechi Taifa, a representative of the Washington D.C.-based Reparation Education Project. “Since the founding of the Supreme Court over 200 years ago, the court has only had two Black men, only five women, (and) not one Black woman.”
According to Attorney Taifa, the appointment of a highly qualified Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court represents a final repudiation of the mindsets that produced the Dredd Scott decision, which stated a Black man had no rights that a White man is bound to respect, and the Plessy v. Ferguson case that codified racial segregation and American apartheid well into the 20th century.
“We’re talking about a candidate whose credentials and qualifications exceed everyone I’ve seen on the court so far,” Attorney Taifa told The Final Call. “She checks all of the boxes that society deems important in a Supreme Court justice. There is just no comparison whatsoever,” she said.
“People who work with her, the American Bar Association, and other judges that worked with her consider her a coalition builder. This is because she can bring a diversity of voice and perspective to the bench,” Houston-based defense attorney Sadiyah Karriem told The Final Call.
“They are trying to portray her as a woman who is angry and an activist. … She can weigh the facts as they relate to the law. The attacks on her are straightforward racism,” she noted.
“Black women are becoming more powerful. Our position is no longer second-class. As a result of our efforts, we are demonstrating that we can rise to the occasion and that we are qualified, more than qualified, to hold a high-level government post,” said Atty. Karriem.
Political posturing and attacks
Citing differences over legislative policies and procedures that remain outside the purview of the judicial branch, GOP members such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continued to stand in firm opposition to Judge Jackson’s confirmation.
“I cannot and will not support Judge Jackson for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” Senator McConnell flatly stated during a speech on the Senate floor, according to CBS News. “Judge Jackson was the court-packers pick, and she testified like it,” the Kentucky senator said.
Stating additional opposition to the historic nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), likened the judge’s supporters to “nutjob liberals and wing nuts,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), justified his opposition because of school curriculum challenging traditional narratives in American history.
The last few Supreme Court nomination hearings have been an example of the divide that continues being on display. Judge Jackson’s hearing has been no exception. GOP senators like rabid dogs grilled her for over 12 hours on child pornography cases, Guantanamo Bay terrorist suspects, Critical Race Theory, trans-rights issues, and her religious beliefs to disparage her qualifications.
“They were rude, they were disrespectful, they interrupted her. It was a circus, and they were the clowns,” Atty. Taifa said of the rhetoric leading to Sen. Graham’s walk out after being chastised by the Judiciary Committee’s Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I feel that they were ignorant, and I don’t even think they know the difference as to what her realm was versus what their realm is.” Atty. Taifa said.
Striking the nerves of all persons involved, the confirmation hearing laid bare issues of race, gender, and tradition among those of the Senate Judiciary Committee and those observing the process.
“What you saw was how people whip up lynch mobs,” said Barbara R. Arnwine, president and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition in an interview with The Final Call.
Recalling how Justice Clarence Thomas referred to himself as the victim of a high-tech lynching in 1991, Ms. Arnwine, an attorney, insisted that the attacks upon Judge Jackson constituted an assault by mob of out of control White men. “What we saw was a sexual assault of a Black woman on that TV,” she argued.
Beyond the politics and the process of seating a Supreme Court justice, the internationally televised confirmation hearing also showcased the indignities and disrespect endured by many Black women daily. Many took to social media to thank Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is Black, for his spirited defense of Judge Jackson during the hearings.
“That ‘sermonette’ by Cory Booker will go down in history and Black men and women will be looking at that sermonette for all times,” Ms. Arnwine said. “He rose like he’s never risen before, and this was probably his most spectacular moment as a senator and it was perfect. We are Black excellence, and we are going to achieve,” Ms. Arnwine said. “We are going to break barriers and we are going to tear down obstacles,” she argued.
Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, released a statement stating, “Judge Jackson maintained her dignity and resolve through some of the most egregious, unjustifiable and historically racist dog-whistle attacks against her record and community service by a few U. S. senators. It was also a testament to her character, integrity, dedication to the rule of law, and commitment to fairness in the justice system.”
Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad, National Spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, said the overt disrespect leveled at the judge should have been expected and represents Black America’s overall experience in facing the contempt, resentments and envy among Caucasians who feel threatened by Black excellence.
It is consistent in this country that Black people, male or female, in every field of endeavor, have to demonstrate a wide gap in the level of achievement over their White counterparts to achieve the same level, Dr. Muhammad said.
“If you look at Judge Brown Jackson’s résumé or her credentials, she’s actually more qualified to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court than the active justices that are sitting there now,” she said.
Dr. Muhammad, who is also a lawyer and a former New York assistant district attorney, added that the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, as taught by Minister Farrakhan, show their adherents how poise, patience and grace contribute to rising above emotion in order to pursue excellence, the fruits of which are likewise found in Judge Jackson’s reward for enduring to the end.
“The sacrifice of our ancestors and our grandparents and parents who suffered everything from humiliation to torture to death that we might be here today, all of that feeds into what you’re seeing when you look at a woman like Judge Brown Jackson, that’s what creates the poise and the ability to maintain reasoning. We are a people of God,” Dr. Muhammad said.
An unraveling system
The impeccable professional qualifications of Judge Jackson notwithstanding, it is clear that talented, gifted Black people have historically been exploited and therefore limited and used by those in power that control public, private and governmental sectors to advance their agenda of continuing the status quo.
Even if Judge Jackson is confirmed, can a broken political system be repaired, especially when it comes to Black folk to become a part of a system that has never worked for them?
In 1981 then-president Ronald Regan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first woman appointed to the high court. She sailed through the process receiving a confirmation vote of 99–0, the most votes for a Supreme Court confirmation in U.S. history. A vote of 96-3 confirmed liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993, who Bill Clinton nominated. Judge Jackson will be lucky to win on a 51-50 vote. It remains to be seen if she will garner any GOP votes. Any hope of bipartisan support has gone poof in the night in the blink of an eye.
Some political pundits say the system is broken because the parties do not cooperate. Others argue that the system has always been broken for Black people, and the appointment of a Black woman to the bench will do little to change that.
Activist and social media commentator Vicki Dillard told The Final Call that the Republican bluster in the hearings was all for show. “They are playing to their base” she said. The point is keeping their base on their side and telling them, ‘Look what we did to that Negro,’” she argued.
“I also find it troubling why the Democratic party and liberals support her. She doesn’t pose a threat to their agenda but will back it. So, when they’re trying to push through LGBTQ rights, when they’re trying to push through all kinds of weird alternative lifestyle types and policies, they know that she’s on board,” argued Ms. Dillard.
“These are the two sides of the White supremacist coin. Both sides are exploiting her. I do not think there is any indication whatsoever that she is a revolutionary or will do anything substantial for Black people. She is simply another symbol to me,” Ms. Dillard declared.
“Still, it is a way to keep Black folks in their place and keep Black folks believing in a fallen America. It’s to keep us hopeful and clinging to an already undone system. They say keep hope alive one more time; we finna make the first Black female Supreme Court judge. It’s about making us believe in the lie. You, see? This is, to me, what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Pamela Muhammad, another attorney, told The Final Call she agrees that Judge Jackson is a well-qualified candidate “whose knowledge and qualifications were displayed in an excellent presentation.” Judge Jackson’s demonstration during the hearings was “impeccable” stated the Houston-based attorney.
“However, I am concerned about the compromises that must be made to get to these positions. In mainstream politics, there is always a tendency to distance ourselves from the legitimate cries of the people to gain acceptance. We saw this when she sidestepped specific issues,” she added.
“Consequently, it only reinforces our need to separate, since where does the legitimate cry of Black people come from?” Atty. Muhammad asked.
“There is partisanship where they argue back and forth with one another. All these mini wars are going on, and they have issues on top of issues. There was talk of the January 6th Capitol riot. There was talk of abortion. All of these topics causing them to clash, and all of these topics have nothing to do with the nomination of Supreme Court justices,” she pointed out.
“It was like watching America unravel as Minister Farrakhan described it.”
During his most recent address during Saviours’ Day 2022 in Chicago in a message titled, “The Swan Song,” Min. Farrakhan spoke on the course America was headed toward as taught to him by his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“America doesn’t have a future. Did you think you could kill off millions of Native Americans … take a nation out of Africa and do what America continues to do … that Mexicans who once owned (much of the West) that she doesn’t have to pay for that?” the Minister asked. “If you don’t repent, you can’t get extra time. The Swan Song is for you,” he said.
Truth must be at the center of governance. As Minister Farrakhan eloquently explained during his message, it is critical to “Love truth.”
“Everything that you look at that was created by Allah (God) is truth. Fight for truth. Do you know how the War of Armageddon starts? It starts with a Messenger of God teaching people the truth. Then people fall on either side, if you disbelieve the truth, then you will continue in your way … bad,” the Minister said before thousands who attended the Feb. 27 message on the grounds of the National Center, headquarters of the Nation of Islam.
“The liars are so thick that you can tell the truth, and the truth does not seem to move the lie. Do you know why? Because the forces that uphold the lie are upholding the lie with their power. So, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, my teacher, said, that means that it has to be physically removed. It is about to happen. Everywhere on the earth, people are crying out for justice,” noted Min. Farrakhan.
However, what does it all mean if, as Minister Farrakhan stated, “When the devil confers a decree on you, he’s finished with you. He’s finished with you because he’s taught you enough that he can use you for his purpose because he’s trained you well to bow down to him.”